Yesterday, Charlie began preschool.
At one point during his absence, Millie turned the corner into my office with a puzzled look on her face as if to say, “Where in the world did everyone go?” I tried to explain school to her as best I could but I was super busy checking my phone every five seconds because the school was sure to call. I mean, Charlie still demands that I accompany him to the bathroom, so I was pretty confident the abrupt separation called for many tears.
But, no. He did fine. Better than fine. He did great! And, not a single tear. From me or from Charlie.
When we found out we were expecting a second baby boy, just about five years ago now, we settled on his name with relative ease: Charles Arthur, after our fathers. We knew we would probably call him Charlie.
When we were still in the hospital during the days following Charles’ birth, Bob gave him the nickname, “Good Time Charlie,” since virtually nothing could diminish his contented demeanor. In those first few days and subsequent weeks, he was rarely upset, delightful in nature and downright jovial at times.
At six months of age, Charlie had surgery to correct a common birth defect. Since we had experience with kids and anesthesia, we braced for the worst as we sat by his bedside waiting for him to wake up from being under. The thrashing, confusion and general chaos never occurred. I’ll never forget his calm coming to; this baby that hadn’t eaten in over 12 hours and had just had surgery, woke up collected and cuddle-ready.
And, not much has changed over the past four years.
If Henry and Millie have strong personalities, I would characterize Charlie’s as soft. He is the first to hug, kiss, snuggle and comfort. Charlie cares. Where Henry and Millie enjoy playing independently, Charlie thrives with one-on-one time. Henry and Millie, both tall for their age with dark hair, are in contrast to compact Charlie with his sandy-blonde waves.
Charlie’s gentle and open personality attracts others wherever we go. Walking through Target, an employee stops us to say how cute “that one” is. At a birthday party, another guest gushes about Charlie and a conversation they had. A new neighbor, just introduced, singles him out for treats.
We marvel at how frequently this happens and wonder what it is about Charlie that people are so drawn to. To us, he’s just Charlie. One of our three children. They are each unique and precious people. But, to others, he seems to be so much more because wherever we are, whomever we’re with, Charlie charms.
We talk about it with a sort of endless fascination and a true curiosity over his future. Once, during a conversation with my parents about Charlie and his amenable personality, I surmised that one day he was either going to do something absolutely amazing or tragically illegal. We then agreed that it was actually possible that whatever amazing thing he accomplished could ALSO be illegal. So, I pray, may he never read this from the confines of a cell.
When we were living in Alexandria, the preschool admittance process involved complicated applications, confusing lottery drawings and overall entrance insanity. So, we avoided school. And, if I’m being honest, we felt Charlie, our sensitive, good-natured middle child, did best at home. He just seemed so little to be out in the real world, dealing with safety scissors and circle time.
When we relocated to Richmond, the perfect preschool presented itself and with his placement secured, we were out of excuses. With every pep talk I gave Charlie, every practice run with the backpack, every declaration about being a “big kid,” I was also readying myself to let him go a bit. And, so I have.
I am hoping for an amazing year for Charlie. Filled with new friends, compassionate teachers, exciting activities and most importantly, independent potty-ing.